The Birth of a Volunteer Fire Company
As the result of a garage fire on Carman Road, a group of concerned citizens joined together and formed the Fort Hunter Volunteer Fire Company in March of 1950. Within months of the formation of the Company, the ladies formed the Auxiliary and the official corporation was established. Ed Kulcyzk donated the use of his garage which was located across Carman Road from the current fire station. With some donations from the community and much volunteer effort, it was converted in the first firehouse.
A 1946 1 ½ ton conventional rack truck was purchased. Using steel plate donated by a local business, as surplus portable pump from the Office of Civil Defense and hard work, it was converted into the first fire engine. A member with previous experience with a Long Island fire company secured six sets of helmets, coats and boots that would otherwise have been discarded.
The first siren was donated and a tower was secured from the Rotterdam District 2 Fire Department. The tower was dismantled, loaded onto trucks and reassembled at the rear of the fire station.
A fire call would come into a party line consisting of five telephones; one in Ed Kulcyzk’s home and one in his gas station. The third and fourth phones were located in Jim Buckley’s home and store respectively. The fifth phone was located inside the firehouse. Any one of the telephones could accept a call and blow the siren at the firehouse. A quick response from members of the company was encouraged, since the first six members got to wear gear; provided they could fit into it.
Support of the company and purchasing equipment was no easy task. Community donation drives, paper drives, drive-in theater benefit nights, bazaars, pancake suppers and hot dog concession at the Altamont Fair all helped to secure funds. The Ladies Auxiliary contributed greatly in these efforts and must be credited with the purchase of the first new ladder, lengths of hose and a portable radio.
In 1953, thirty five volunteer firemen broke ground for a new fire station. The firemen dug trenches and built forms for the 40 x 70 building using donated equipment. The plans for the one story building were drawn up by Andrew Starr a member of the Company and local contractor. Ed Shave served as the Chairman of the building committee.
The increased financial burdens inspired the formation of a Fire District with the power to tax properties within the district for operating funds. The Fire District then took over construction of the new firehouse and purchased our second truck, a tanker from the Carman Fire Department. In 1955, construction of the new firehouse was completed. The first annual Turkey Raffle was held, and became the fire company’s main financial mainstay until 1980. With the passage of new wagering laws, that tradition came to an abrupt end as member’s started to solicit door to door. Due to the increasing number of households in the fire district, the annual fund drive changed to soliciting donations via mail and provides the Chief and officers an opportunity to update the community with occurrences over the past year,
In 1957, the first two-way radio was installed to join Fort Hunter to the countywide radio system. Another tradition was started with the first annual Children’s Halloween Party, a community favorite that continues to this day. In 1959, the membership purchased 23.5 acres of land to the rear of the present firehouse, which provides recreational facilities and a pavilion.
In the early sixties, the old tanker truck was replaced with a new 1400 gallon tanker. A new custom engine capable of pumping 750 gallons per minute was purchased in 1965 and served until 1987. That 1965 truck was recently purchased by the fire company and it is currently being restored. It will be used for parades and fire prevention activities.
The firehouse was expanded in 1970 with the addition of a meeting room, recreation room and kitchen. In the early 1970’s, the tanker was replaced once again. It’s replacement served until 1992. Due to the increased amount of brush fires and the need for off-road capabilities, a 4-wheel drive mini-pumper with pump and roll capabilities was purchased in 1972. This unit being one of the only such vehicles in the Town of Guilderland went to many mutual aid calls and served for 24 years. A Ward LaFrance 1500 gallon per minute diesel pumper with seating for 5 was purchased in 1975. This vehicles was the first lime green vehicles to break the traditional color red. A used squad truck was purchased in 1980, this vehicle could carry rescue, extrication, salvage and overhaul equipment in addition to generator and cascade air system. This vehicle had the ability to supply power to the firehouse in the event of a commercial power failure.
On August 7th, 1981, a vehicle struck the front of the firehouse bursting into flames and causing considerable damage to the firehouse and one of our fire engines. Thanks to our neighboring fire departments and the resiliency of our members, we were back up and running within a short period of time. During the early 1980’s, the fire district housed the Western Turnpike Ambulance within the firehouse while they constructed WTRS Station II.
Our firehouse expanded once again in 1985, eliminating the need to double stack the apparatus in the original three bay station. An additional two bays were added bringing us to a total of 5 bays, matching the amount of apparatus. The addition included much need office space for the officers and commissioners, a radio room and storage space. With the Fire District expanding at a rapid rate, the need for municipal water was evident. In 1985, the Company sold four acres of land to the Town of Guilderland for construction of a 1 million gallon water tank which allowed for expansion of the water system and improved water pressure and firefighting capabilities.
In 1987 a new 1500 gallon per minute Pierce Lance pumper with seating for six was purchased. This eliminated the need to ride on the exposed rear step. The engine included innovative top mount controls which improved pump operator safety by placing them off the road on an elevated platform. This new pumper replaced the 1965 pumper which survived the brunt of the vehicle accident that damaged the firehouse in 1981.
In 1992, a new pumper tanker was purchased, this vehicle had a 1500 gallon per minute pump and a 1500 gallon water tank. The vehicle included seating for six, top mount pump controls and portable pond. This vehicle provided protection to areas of the district without water including the NYS Thruway and became our primary mutual aid truck. Over the next few years we increased our rescue capabilities and equipment by purchasing additional hand tools, a 54 ton air bag system and Lucas hydraulic rescue tools. Our used squad truck was quickly becoming unable to store and support the increased rescue equipment. After realizing this, the district purchased a new Pierce Saber Squad truck. This truck is capable of carrying 8 people and features a 45 Kw generator, a light tower and pre-connected rescue tool reels. With the purchase of this vehicle, the district decided to install a permantly installed generator to power the firehouse in the event of a power failure and not rely on our squad truck which could be needed for an emergency somewhere else. With the rapidly increasing call volumes and need for increased incident command capabilities, a new command vehicle was purchased to provide the Chief’s an additional tool to properly manage an emergency incident. The vehicle carries command boards, pre-plans files and radio equipment.
In 1999, the district replaced two apparatus, the 1972 brush truck and 1975 Ward LaFrance pumper. The new brush truck is a Ford F-350 four door cab pickup truck with a 200 gallon skid unit. The vehicle is capable of carrying 5 firefighters and the bulk of our brush firefighting equipment. The new pumper is a Pierce Saber with seating for 6, a 1500 gallon per minute pump and 750 gallon water tank. Within 30 minutes of being placed into service, this apparatus responded to its first call, a working house fire with flames showing.
As the community has continued to support us through the years, we try to support our community beyond the fire and rescue services we provide. Our Fire Prevention team strives to provide simple and useful fire safety programs to school kids at PineBush, Lynwood and St, Madeline’ schools. We also host an open house during Fire Prevention Week in October. During this event members of the community are welcomed into the firehouse. We use this event as an opportunity to showcase exactly what we do out in the community. It also serves as a great avenue to provide fire safety material to kids and parents. In addition to the Halloween Party, the Ladies Auxiliary hosts Breakfast with Santa which is held on the first Saturday in December. In 1998, the fire company started the annual Santa’s Express, as Santa rides our fire truck through the neighborhood with firefighters handing out candy canes to all who come out of their house to greet us.
In 2000, the Fire Company celebrated 50 years of service by hosting a community parade followed by a fun field day in the The Grove, located behind the firehouse. The event allowed the Fire Company to thank the community for their support and to share a few moments with our neighbors and friends. Over the next few years, additional chief’s vehicles were added to our apparatus profile allowing our three chiefs to respond directly to the scene and provide the needed support to the overall operations. The Fire District soon realized that we had outgrown the capabilities of our 50 year old firehouse. A committee was formed to investigate options to renovate or replace the aging structure. It had become clear that existing facilities no longer could the meet the changing needs of the district. The apparatus could no longer fit into the existing bays; the shared office space was inadequate to house the increasing administrative duties; and the aging infrastructure were all reaching end of their life. After several years of exhaustive research and investigation into other new stations and study of our existing building, it was determined that a new building was needed. The Fire District reached out to the community, spending several open houses educating the residents on the need for a new station. With the successful passage of a community vote, the new station was approved and construction began. In 2005, the new station was opened to the public with a community open house and dedications ceremony. This building should serve us well as we look ahead.
In 2010, the fire district replaced the 1992 Engine Tanker with a new Pierce Velocity Pumper. The apparatus carries 1000 gallons of water, 60 gallons of foam, a 1500 gallon per minute pump along with many other firefighting tools. The biggest change with the purchase of this truck is the particular attention paid to firefighter safety within the cab of the apparatus. Some of the safety features include airbags, side-roll protection, electronic stability control, just to name a few. There are airbags positioned all over the cab which provide yet another level of safety to our firefighters who are responding to your call for help.
The fire company is celebrating our 60th Anniversary this year and still responds to the needs of our community with state of the art equipment, highly trained and motivated firefighters. We are still 100% volunteer and are proud to serve you.